Five remarkable QMU innovators could turn unique business ideas into reality

By Press Office

Not just one, but five budding entrepreneurs from Queen Margaret University (QMU) have been accepted into the Converge 2024 semi-finalist cohort, Scotland’s springboard for university-born innovators.  

Judges have been impressed by QMU’s range of game-changing projects which include an alternative to palm fat for use in the bakery industry; the use of virtual reality to support clinical teaching; innovative technology which helps protect people’s voices; a new way to support people living with chronic pain; and enhancing learning through role play.

Lecturer guides student through VR simulation

Working in partnership with the nation’s world-class universities, the Converge Challenges help students, staff, and recent graduates gain the tools, networks, and support to launch their business ideas into the world. 

This year, breakthrough projects concocted from the bright minds of five QMU applicants with a passion for innovation and invention, could be turned into reality - QMU staff members Dr Felix Schaeffler, Prateek Rangra and Catriona Liddle, QMU graduate and former staff member Alex Williams, and current postgraduate student Mel Prentice are pitching a range of pioneering project ideas.  

Featuring emerging technologies that could change the way we eat, live, and safeguard our planet, this year’s shortlist includes ideas from across the length and breadth of Scotland with 18 Scottish Universities and Research Institutes included in the final cut.  

All 100 semi-finalists will now attend in-depth business training with the most advanced projects invited to pitch their ideas live to an audience of investors, entrepreneurs and business leaders on 5 June in Edinburgh. We wish our five semi-finalists the best of luck! 

To find out more about the Converge Challenges and how you can apply, regardless of your background and entrepreneurial readiness, visit:

Find out about each of our five semi-finalists' ideas below:  

Dr Felix Schaeffler 

Dr Felix Schaeffler, Lecturer in the Speech and Hearing Sciences Division at QMU, will be pitching his business idea, titled Voice Buddy - a new service for people who have problems with their voice or want to care for their voices better - within the Create Change Challenge category.  

Voice Buddy is a platform independent web-app that provides voice information, voice assessment, voice care tips and engaging exercises, helps to find time for and maintain a voice care routine, and gives people the confidence to look after their voices. 

Voice Buddy is provided by experienced researchers and speech and language therapists who specialise in voice, guaranteeing high quality, state-of-the-art and evidence-based voice information and care. 

Prateek Rangra 

Prateek Rangra, QMU alumni and current Physiotherapy Lecturer at QMU applied to the KickStart Challenge for his project, ORYNX - a health sciences-based training platform targeting universities and medical institutions. It enhances learning through role-play, which is realistic, using advanced technology for natural-sounding conversations via text and speech with future plans to integrate augmented and virtual reality.  

While it's designed to exceed the capabilities of traditional-based training tools through artificial intelligence, this application will allow users to make the learning content fit their needs with options to create customised content. This will transform how medical and health sciences are taught, making classroom and home learning interactive, personalised and fun. 

Catriona Liddle 

Catriona Liddle, Lecturer in the Dietetics, Nutrition and Biological Sciences Division at QMU and Head of the Scottish Centre for Food Development and Innovation, has led the way on innovative PalmAlt - a revolutionary, sustainable alternative to palm oil which could offer a solution to the damaging effects of palm cultivation. She submitted her pioneering project to the KickStart Challenge. 

PalmAlt creates the perfect storm of better sustainability and improved nutritional profile. PalmAlt has been tested in lab and pilot plant and tested functionally in an ever-increasing number of baked goods. With significant nutrition and sustainability benefits against palm, with lab and pilot scale trials achieved, PalmAlt is a very viable alternative to palm. 

Alexander Williams 

Alexander Williams is a former Lecturer in Paramedic Science within the Nursing division at QMU, as well as being part of the institution’s postgraduate alumni cohort. His project, that he submitted to the KickStart Challenge category, features an educational company that aims to create and provide 360 video and immersive virtual reality experiences for clinical education. Virtual reality in clinical education is a rapidly growing market area.  

Currently, there is limited access to VR education outside of specialist training centres. AMH360 aims to bring 360 and immersive reality education to university events for both students and qualified clinical staff. AMH360 will develop innovative experiences to target high-risk events, allowing clinicians to develop confidence in their decision-making and awareness in these situations. 

Mel Prentice 

Mel Prentice, a postgraduate student and Bachelor of Science graduate from QMU, applied for the KickStart Challenge with her business idea that focuses on health in Scotland, titled Healthy Ambitions. She said:

"43% of Scottish women live with chronic pain; 9% more than their UK counterparts. One third of these are less able to maintain an independent lifestyle due to their pain, placing a substantial burden on individuals, families, healthcare systems, and society. Chronic pain negatively impacts health, lifestyle and career choices, personal relationships, and self-esteem. We need a fundamental re-think in how we support people living with chronic pain through far-reaching solutions. Healthy Ambitions offers a new perspective: integrating theory, evidence-based therapies, and clinical experience. Our person-centred, compassion-focused approach supports the nervous system first to create possibilities for long-lasting change."

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